Iona Red Blend
Ashbourne Pinotage 2018

The Magic Of Merlot

If you want to escape the scorching heat of the Cape in summer, the Elgin Wine Valley is probably your best bet to douse yourself in a cooler environment. If the lush surrounds of vineyards and orchards are anything to judge it by, this is undoubtedly the valley of plenty. And the reason that the Almenkerk-family made this their home. The winery is constructed against the mountainside to offer you views while merging with the environment itself. With 15 hectares of vines in production, they know their vineyards like the back of their palm, which have translated into magnificent wines produced here. Real people, authentic wines.

Almenkerk is a family-owned wine estate in the cool Elgin wine Valley celebrating their Belgian-Dutch heritage on South African soil, focusing on world-class wines.

The Almenkerk Merlot 2017 has received 4 ½ stars from Platter’s, won Veritas Double Gold and received double gold in the 2021 National Wine Competition.

Their new cross-fit hiking trail is opening in time for the summer holidays. Adventures lovers can look forward to enjoying beautiful views while being challenged at different cross-fit stations.

“Less is more, and this Almenkerk Merlot 2017 exudes class and finesse.” – Samarie Smith


  • Less is more, and when you celebrate Italian cuisine, you want to use the best ingredients possible and showcase their beautiful flavours.
  • Mascarpone has a higher fat content than cream cheese which works well with the tannins of red wines. The richness of the mascarpone latches on to the already velvety character of Merlot, highlighting its purity of fruit.
  • We love adding mascarpone to handmade pappardelle pasta instead of cream as it adds length of flavour and a comforting viscosity to the wine. Pan fry wild, earthy tasting mushrooms to add brightness to the wine, some Parmesan shavings, and you are good to go.
  • Remind yourself that you are enjoying wine from a cooler area. There are loads of subtleties to be enjoyed, and they worked hard to retain that! Don’t let robust aromas mask that.
  • We stayed with the merlot and mascarpone theme when we moved to dessert and made an open plum tart with puff pastry. You will love how toasted almonds adds texture while it weaves in an aromatic marzipan note.
  • The tartness of the plum evokes a savoury side to the Merlot, while the flaky, puff pastry adds richness back to excite your palate.
  • Drizzling the tart judiciously with maple syrup will relieve the tartness of the plums and remind you of the wine’s vibrant, natural acidity. A sprig of mint adds coolness.
  • Don’t be tied down by a recipe; explore different ways of using plums, mushrooms and mascarpone to celebrate your wine. If it goes pear-shaped, drink more Merlot.

Our Experience

Suppose you’ve missed out on our previous feature on Almenkerk. In that case, we can encourage you to visit this link to learn how Joris and Natalie made this their home and became recognised for producing ambassadorial wines from the Elgin Valley.

Cool climate wine regions of South Africa have restored our faith in sophisticated Merlots. It is time that we put fine Merlot under the magnifying glass and understand why the best is worthy of every cent. Almenkerk is one of the wineries that excel with this variety and truly celebrates its nobility through careful canopy management, rigorous sorting in the cellar and paying attention to what the environment tells us about a specific vintage.

The grape for their Merlot comes from the same block subdivided into two zones to identify the slight but vital variations within the block. One zone is named after their daughter Emma and the other, Bro, is named after Joris’ brother Jeroen. Different clones add a range of flavours they get from their Merlot, and the cool climate extends the hang time Merlot loves so much that it results in optimally ripe grapes and beautifully balanced wines.


The Almenkerk Merlot 2017 is an ode to the right bank in Bordeaux – reminiscent of its vibrant red fruit and velvety matured tannins. Five years in bottle has also guided the wine into reaching its equilibrium, making it the perfect time to enjoy it now. The freshness is uncanny in pinpointing its origin and the natural acidities achieved here. The wine rewards you with incredible fruit purity and aromas of cranberry, mulberry, young plums, violet and lavender – so elegant you can spend time just taking in its delicate bouquet. On tasting the wine, it reminds you that it is no walkover lass, the fruit chiselled with firm ripe tannins and a slatey minerality, adding a firm, chiselled texture to the wine. The oak is well-judged, adding a supportive frame for this Merlot that is sure to age beautifully for another five years.



We cannot encourage you enough to visit them this festive season as chances are good you will find Joris or Natalie there right there pouring wine for guests. However, we can also recommend you double up on the wine pleasure before the Christmas rush and invest in some of their magnums (1.5L). We often prefer magnums for the festive season, be it as gifting or to have an impressive presence at such an important time for family and friends.

This reminded Georgio of the simple things growing up with an Italian mom teaching him the simple yet powerful virtues of life, and the word mascarpone popped out even before I could say Merlot.

We wanted to have fun with this rich, creamy cheese he was brought up with that turned out to be so much more versatile than I could imagine, especially when you are enjoying one of your favourite Merlot’s. Georgio taught me how it adds fullness to both a portion of pasta and a wine while leaving a tiny bit in the tub for the gato’s (feline kids) to enjoy.

Making our own pappardelle is also part of the fun while we get to sip on this wine and enjoy it with different layers as it warms up in the glass.

With plums in season in South Africa, it would be sacrilege not to incorporate them into your Merlot-encounters as the tartness of the plum also evokes a more savoury side to the Merlot. Don’t be afraid to drop the temperature of the wine in summer – it will only reward you with its intricate and more subtle layers than serving it too warm. Enjoy the finesse of a wine like this at Christmas time and savour memorable moments that are larger than life.

See it for yourself

Gallery of our experience.
All images copyright Samarie Smith and/or the featured estate.

To have your wine featured and reviewed, please contact us.


Samarie +27 82 072 5451

Georgio +27 83 326 3016